In my various volunteer positions, I have had the pleasure of working with a myriad of people across the district and our town. I believe the best outcomes are achieved when we listen to others, especially to people with perspectives different from our own. My math background has trained me how to analyze problems quickly and thoroughly, getting to the heart of problems and knowing what questions to ask in order to solve them.
The topics below come from questions I am asked on a regular basis, and I will add to the list as I continue to hear from each of you. While we might not agree on every issue, I do believe we can work together for the benefit of our students and our community.
The governing board represents the community in prioritizing the budget, setting and enforcing policy, and adopting curricula. The board also hires our superintendent and holds him/her accountable. My vision (on the home page) lays out how I will approach each of these responsibilities.
Outside of our homes, our educators have the greatest impact on our children day-to-day. In an average week, they are with our children about 30% of their waking hours. As a parent, I want to make sure we retain and attract the very best educators our state has to offer. I believe this is achieved by not only offering competitive salaries and effective district support and training, but by encouraging positive and constructive parent involvement.
As a district, we should manage every taxpayer dollar wisely by being deliberate with our spending and prioritizing our funds to align with our educational goals. It is critical that we account for and are transparent about our spending and that we take to the voters only those initiatives that support our stated priorities.
A good curriculum is vital to student achievement and should be chosen to give our teachers the very best tools to help our students not only succeed but excel. In navigating some of the nuances in any curriculum, I trust that our teachers understand and can well represent our community. Any concerns about curriculum implementation should be dealt with in a respectful way, between parents and teachers first, as we listen to understand each other and work together for the benefit of our children.
I do not support Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in our schools or implemented in our curriculum. I do believe in teaching critical thinking skills and in having honest conversations to better understand one another. I also believe in teaching our state standards and working with our local community to select the curriculum. Discrimination or racism of any kind should not be tolerated in our school community and everyone, students and staff alike, should feel safe in our schools.
UPDATE: Arizona recently passed HB 2898, which in effect bans CRT from all Arizona schools and allows a fine of up to $5,000 for schools that violate the law.
I do not support Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) being taught in our schools, as that instruction should be left to the parents. I do support human reproduction being taught as part of the biology curriculum according to state standards.
I don’t support unions. I do support teachers.
Arizona is a Right-to-Work state, which means we technically have no functioning or operating unions to speak of. We do have organizations that advocate for teachers, but they have no legal power other than an ability to organize and advocate. Gilbert Public Schools’ teacher organization is the Gilbert Education Association (GEA), and they represent about 15% of the teachers in GPS.
In pursuit of our common goal of keeping students first, it’s important that we maintain a respectful relationship with all of our teachers. We can do a lot of good for our students when we work together as parents, teachers and staff, and I am committed to working with all stakeholders for the benefit of our children’s education.
I would support teachers who are members of GEA (Gilbert Education Association) the same way I would support any other teacher in the district. By being open to feedback, listening to their concerns and any suggestions that will help support what they are trying to do for our students. Any idea that is good for students is an idea worth listening to.
Currently, the district, teachers and staff work together as part of an inter-based bargaining team. Some members of that working team are members of GEA, but that is not a requirement. Member of this team bring proposals to the district and together they discuss which proposals to bring to the board for approval. As these proposals are brought to the board, I would support initiatives that help serve our common goal of keeping students first. I would also question any proposal that I do not believe benefits education.
In addition, I would like to ensure that we are intentionally reaching out to all teachers to invite more voices and input. I would entertain any idea that is in the best interest of our teachers and by extension, our students, whether that idea comes from a teacher (GEA member or not), a parent or community member.
Again, any idea that is good for students is an idea worth listening to.
I am hoping the decisions surrounding COVID-19 are behind us. However, I know many will ask my stance on this issue. My vote would have been to do everything within our power to keep our kids in school with masks optional. Ideally all families and staff would have a choice to do what they feel is best for their individual circumstances.
To be clear, as a board member, my focus would be on making the best use of the funds we currently have and working to increase enrollment to maximize our funding; overseeing the vouchers would not be in our purview, as it is a state issue.
I am a proponent of school choice and parents being able to enroll their children in whatever program is best for them, so philosophically I was not opposed to the original voucher system. Also, as the original ESAs were set up to help only at-risk and special needs children, I believe they serve a purpose in those children getting the necessary help and support they might not find at a public school. Also, as these children were already counted in our state funding formula, the “overall pot” of funding did not shrink. It is true that public schools might have lost some students to other institutions, but it is my understanding that it wasn’t the mass exodus from public education as some expected.
I do have concerns, however, about the recent expansions of vouchers to all private schools. In 2018 voters rejected the initiative to expand ESAs, so I am not sure why the legislature chose to overturn that vote and the will of the people by putting the expansion into law this past spring.
I also have concerns about my tax dollars going to private institutions with virtually no oversight and opening up the possibility for us either funding extreme ideological schools (on either side) or the state dictating what private institutions have to teach, which is typically one of the main benefits of a private school.
In addition, the state would potentially now be funding roughly an additional 40,000 students (although I believe the number is higher) who currently attend private schools. Since the state was not previously funding these students, the “overall pot” of state funding that we currently have would now be spread out among more students. If the legislature does not adjust the state budget to allow for this extra funding, this would in effect lower our “per pupil” funding amount.
If this were to happen, (I did some very rough estimations) it could potentially cut $10 million from our district budget alone, which is not a small amount. In order to keep our current funding the state would have to either reallocate funding towards education or raise taxes, which I am not a fan of.
My view on SEL depends on its definition. I do not support any curricula that focuses on ideologies that are political, ideological, or gender driven, as those discussions belong at home and not in our classrooms. However, I do support curricula that reinforces parental concerns and gives teachers the tools necessary to handle student behavioral and coping challenges, especially as many of our younger kids have struggled to adjust being back in school after covid. This type of focus allows us to implement approaches that improve student learning and academic achievement.
Our district uses Second Steps for their SEL curriculum in the elementary schools and parents can opt their students out of the program. We have used this curriculum since 2012, when it was first piloted in response to teachers requesting help with discipline issues in the classroom. I have done a brief overview of the curriculum and could find nothing too alarming with this first look, but admittedly need to do a deeper dive. If anyone has any specific concerns I would love to hear them so I can be aware when I review it again.
With ANY curriculum, I think the concerns stem from how teachers might implement it. We first need to ensure we provide sufficient training for our teachers, and then trust them to be able to navigate the nuances of that curriculum, believing they know and understand our community values. If parents have any concerns about how any curriculum is being implemented, I would encourage them to reach out to their teacher and then principal if initial concerns are not resolved.
I also believe it is important that we are consistently evaluating each of our curricula and its impact on our students. If, as a school community (parents and teachers included), we believe our current curriculum isn’t helping our students, we need to find one that does. As a district and school board, we need to also offer clear direction to ensure all curricula are taught with integrity. I welcome any thoughts, concerns or new ideas on the topic.
School districts have the opportunity to ask the community to approve a bond through a general election vote. Bond funds can only be used for capital expenses, such as buildings, buses or technology. Each time a bond is approved, the district is required by law to use those funds only as they were outlined in the bond request. I will support bonds only when necessary to maintain the level of education that we, as a community, expect from Gilbert Public Schools.
**You can find more information about bonds on my blog.
As a district, we should be fiscally responsible in order to build trust among our stakeholders, so when it comes time to request a budget override, the community can have confidence that we are efficiently utilizing our current funds and are asking for only the funds necessary to reflect their educational goals and values. I will support an override if we, as a district, have met these requirements.
**You can find more information about overrides on my blog.
Copyright © 2022 Paid for by Collette Evans for Gilbert School Board - All Rights Reserved.
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